Easter speaks to Illinois Student Senate about state of budget

University Interim Chancellor and Provost Robert Easter addressed the Illinois Student Senate about the current financial state of the University at its weekly meeting Wednesday evening. He discussed what initiatives the University has taken to save money and other possibilities for the future.

Easter explained that the state owes the University system about $500 million, with about half of it belonging to the Urbana campus. He said feels that the state is interested in funding the University but that it does not have the money available.

He said implementing the furlough program and asking departments to not spend all of its allocated funds will help fix the situation; however, he optimistically suggested several other possibilities to solve the budget situation.

One solution the University is looking into is reviewing the Vice Chancellors’ offices, University units and University Colleges for “a way to achieve efficiency by putting pieces together.”

Easter said although the University is considering consolidating programs, it will work to minimize the effects on students.

“I can’t recall a situation where a student has ever been stranded because a program was closed,” he said.

Carey Ash, vice president-internal for the student senate, said it is the job of the student senate to work with University administrator to help decrease negative effects on students.

“Anything that happens is going to restructure the lives of students. Be it from the most minute detail to the greatest issue, it’s going to affect student life on this campus,” Ash said. “It’s our job as student leaders to protect, preserve and defend student life as we know it to the best of our ability, but by that same token, we must always work hand-in-hand with the University administration.”

Following Easter’s speech, student senator Nolan Drea asked him how students could help.

Drea suggested a letter drive to alumni to generate revenue.

“There’s 39,000 people, you would think we could get together and do something like that,” he said. “Obviously, (it would) not make up the bulk or all of it but just to do something.”

Easter said students can contribute to the University in small ways, such as improving the campus image by cleaning up trash or conserving energy.

“It sounds trivial but there’s a lot of little things that you can do that may not impact your environment individually but can have some significant impact on the cost operating our physical facility,” he said.

Ash said he was grateful that Easter attended, and it is important for the senate to continue working with the University.

“To see a chancellor that’s willing to respect our say in shared governance, to honor our part in this community, means a lot.”